(By Sam Freddy.)
In less than three weeks, four death-related cases had been confirmed again, making it a total of six premature deaths for the whole month. Unilorin wasn’t getting safe anymore, neither were the students in it.
The rivalry between gangs and various cult groups placed many in the path of danger. People no longer felt safe during daytime any longer, much less at night. Most people even boycotted classes and lectures just to avoid unfortunate stories that touches hearts.
However, so far so good, none of the potential danger and chaos of the school seemed to affect me in my safe abode. I stayed off campus alone in my small apartment, until Miracle, my best friend and course mate, decided to join me over. She was undoubtedly terrified and much more afraid than I was but she didn’t show it out much. I admired her confidence.
Nevertheless, in as much as I did fancy and enjoy her company with me, it also brought in more disturbance and pressure from her friends who became aware of her stay with me. They tried using that opportunity as an advantage to themselves, to persuade her into convincing me towards making out space for them to move in too, but I always declined; due to the fact that the room was small and already crumpled up. Taking more people in would mean forfeiting my own convenience and privacy to satisfy others. I wasn’t willing to do that. At least, not yet.
Also, judging by the kind of lifestyle I lived, most people would normally say I act too reserved like a Jew-man who knows nothing, probably because I didn’t keep much friends or associate more often like my peers. Some considered it pride. Some said it’s low self-esteem. Some even went further to say it’s probably religion taking its toll on me, just for being a dedicated, peaceful introvert. To show you how funny peopleʼs assumptions could actually be at times.
However, be it as it may, I specially enjoyed the criticisms and the scepticisms they made about me. It made me feel special in a kind of way.
After all, I was in my mid-twenties; old enough to make choices of my own. I rarely used make-up. I avoided dressing extravagantly. I also avoided being too lavish and pompous unnecessarily. Yet, people still talk.
I wasn’t holy, neither was I pure, but I liked being neutral! In other words, I loved being natural.
I took after my father’s height. I was 5’4 inches tall, but not too tall like he was. Likewise my late mother’s chocolate skin complexion. I was a complete replica of her in many ways. One could unknowingly take us as sisters on a normal day if care wasn’t taken. She looked so young and vibrant and was very healthy that, in fact, I never predicted her dying any time soon. It just happened.
She slept and didn’t wake up again, just like that. Since then, I ceased faith in God. He never existed to me anymore.
That was several years ago though.
In less than a week, the second semester examination of our third year was to begin. I started getting prepared little by little by taking study sessions with Mimi when she wasn’t occupied. Or most times, I just spent a great deal of time in the library on my own.
We used to have a group study session at night in the Lecture Hall before, where majority of students do gather and click heads together to brainstorm, but everything changed since the recent slaughter here and there in the school. Nobody had the guts to show up again.
On a particular day, almost at midnight to be specific, I returned home from the library with some chips and noodles which I had gotten on my way from one of the many campus outlets. I was very famished and tired. I met Mimi sprawled up on the bed with her notebooks scattered all over the floor. She didn’t seem to notice my presence ever since I entered, because she seemed to be too engrossed with whoever it was that she talked with on the phone call. I just shrugged and made my way into the bathroom for a warm bath.
After that, I changed into bum-shorts and a casual T-shirt then proceeded to the kitchen to cook. It isnʼt what any sane person would actually call a suitable kitchen though, but it served us quite good. It was convenient for us.
I placed a pot of water on fire and took out the basin where we usually stored food items so I could take out some onions, but there wasn’t any left inside of it. It was empty. I then checked the cupboard too but I still didn’t find any at all.
“Did you use the last onion here?” I said aloud from the kitchen, referring to Miracle, but she didn’t respond.
“Did you use the last onion?” I repeated.
“What?” She answered eventually.
“I said did you use the last onion here?”
“I can’t hear you. Speak louder!”
I didn’t respond again. Instead, I grabbed my purse and took the back door to the passageway which leads to the streets.
The atmosphere was pitch black and dark. I had barely walked up to half a kilometre when three very bright flashlights suddenly beamed upon me from different angles.
I couldʼve sworn my heart skipped three beats at that very instant!
(By Sam Freddy.)
“Stop there!” I suddenly heard an unknown voice calling out to me amidst the darkness.
I wanted to run away as fast as my legs could carry me, but on a second thought, I considered them being vigilantes. So I just followed my instincts and stopped as I had been instructed.
“Who you be?” The same voice drew nearer and flashed the torch at my face. I couldn’t answer.
“Are you deaf?” Another one asked fiercely. Yet, I couldn’t respond.
“Do you think we are joking here?” The first guy asked again with a more ferocious tone. But I still couldn’t talk! I was too petrified to even find the actual words I could say in my defense.
“Look,” a third voice came from nowhere, “it’s best you comply with us. We don’t want to hurt you, and we don’t intend to. But if you push us to, then we will. Do you concur?”
I simply nodded affirmatively, completely unsure of what to say.
“That’s nice. So let’s start afresh! Who are you?”
“I… I am Lydia,” I managed to speak up confidently.
“Lydia!” I repeated.
“Liar!” He said aloud and stomped his right foot on the ground three times. I became frightened. The other guys beside me suddenly burst into laughter, probably because of my terrified facial expression.
“You think you are smart?” He asked, barely taking his horrific eyes away from mine.
I didn’t reply.
“You really think you’re smart?” He asked again, laughing this time around. I became even more terrified than I was.
“She no dey look face at all!” One of the guys said to another as they both cracked up with laughter again.
“You see how they’re laughing at you? You could’ve simply said the truth, very plain and direct; and maybe we’ll let you go. But you chose to lie instead. What do we do to her now?” He asked the other guys who in turn gave him signs and inaudible whispers into his ears.
He stood transfixed for a while with his gaze placed on me, and then he shook his head with disdain.
“Go home!” He muttered, almost in a whisper.
“I… I need to get onions.” I poured the words out of my mouth before I could even stop myself.
“You said what?”
“I need onions. It’s why I’m out here this late.” I repeated audibly.
He turned around and looked at me in a rather abrasive manner. His countenance changed all of a sudden.
“Don’t make me change my mind.”
He sounded stern! The look he had on his face wasn’t inviting either. I just had to turn around and head back home to avoid unnecessary problems, at least, for the sake of my dear life.
“Where have you been?” Mimi questioned me the moment I got back inside. She was eating one of the chips I had brought back earlier.
“Nowhere.” I responded with ease, obviously uninterested in her regular annoying nature of asking questions.
“Nowhere?” She asked, giving me a funny look.
“Yes, nowhere,” I answered and made my way to the kitchen to put down the water I was boiling and then I turned off the stove. I had lost my appetite for dinner tonight.
“Are you alright?” Mimiʼs curiosity grew worse as I returned to the parlour and made my bed to lie.
“Are you sure, Fifi?” She asked again, still giving me her funny, suspicious look.
“Trust me, I’m fine.” I assured her with a forced smile. I didn’t want to make her aware of the presence of the cult guys in the area. She was fond of panicking unnecessarily as expected of a complete drama queen. Which, in fact, was one of the traits I found humorous about her personality.
“Alright, if you say so! Won’t you join me in eating this?” She stretched the plate full of chips to me. I declined it politely and bade her goodnight.
The next day, after lectures, something strange happened. A group of guys stood by a corner somewhere within the lecture hall in a very heated argument. Suddenly, one of them ran towards the cafeteria nearby, quickly grabbed a bottle, ran back inside and smashed it onto another’s head. It developed into a very brutal fight. When they eventually got separated, we were amazed to know that the cause of their brawl was of football and nothing more serious than that.
I later got home and freshened up. Mimi wasn’t back from campus yet. I made stew and a minimum quantity of rice for her, myself and my landlord’s daughters. They were the only friends and neighbours I had managed to maintain since I moved in.
Ijeoma was my favourite among them all. She was more mature and clever both in attitude and habits. We were very close and it didn’t fail to show to the other neighbors within the compound that we were, indeed, more like sisters.
In fact, I did help her most times with her studies and preparation for Post UTME when I deemed it fit.
However, on this very day, we both sat on a bench inside the compound’s premises talking and gossiping in our usual feminine fashion while we ate together in the same plate. But then, all of a sudden, a guy barged into the gate with blood stains on his clothes.
Terrible gunshots were being fired outside at the same time he rushed into our compound.